It was revealed by this newspaper yesterday that government chief executive Charlie Parker had accepted a non-executive role with UK-based real-estate company New River.
Although there has been no suggestion that New River have any business interests in Jersey, the company does have a number of subsidiary companies and unit trusts which are incorporated in the Island.
Two of the subsidiary operations have registered offices at the International Finance Centre which are administered by Sanne Fiduciary Services, and New River also has an Employee Benefit Trust registered in Jersey.
Government confirmation that both the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister had sanctioned Mr Parker’s extra-curricular role drew criticism from Environment Minister John Young, who said he had not been consulted on the issue.
‘I was absolutely not aware of this at any point until I saw it on social media,’ Deputy Young, a former senior Jersey civil servant who was head of the Planning and Environment Department, said.
‘If I had been asked I would have said that it was a bad thing in principle – I don’t see how such a potential conflict of interest can be acceptable.
‘As a senior public servant you should be required to be dedicated to the role – that was always the case for me when I was a senior civil servant and I’m surprised that it hasn’t been the case here.’
Deputy Young said he ‘very much hoped’ that ministers would have the opportunity to discuss Mr Parker’s new role, which he took up on 10 September, in the near future.
Treasury Minister Susie Pinel confirmed to the JEP that, like Deputy Young, she had not been aware of the issue.
Although several other ministers declined to comment on the matter or were unavailable due to being on leave, Housing Minister Sam Mézec endorsed a response by Reform Jersey, the political party he leads.
‘Reform Jersey is concerned not only about a possible conflict of interest,’ the statement read, ‘but also about the impression that the top civil servant can have time to undertake a second job whilst other public sector workers have to work long and unsocial hours, often without paid overtime, leaving them unable to undertake additional jobs to improve their financial position.’
The level of remuneration for the chief executive and other senior officers was a reflection of their roles not being confined to a normal 37-hour week, Reform Jersey’s statement continued, highlighting that Mr Parker’s total earnings, including his £250,000 government salary, were almost ten times the average wage in Jersey of £31,720.
‘This announcement, when times are so hard for so many, with unemployment and job insecurity rife, is unfortunate to say the least,’ the statement said.
Another minister contacted by the JEP admitted they had been ‘surprised’ when the news broke yesterday.
Confusion surrounds the exact circumstances of how Mr Parker came to be permitted to take up the New River role.
The chief executive’s government employment contract, which was made public in late 2018, almost 11 months after he moved to Jersey, stipulates that involvement in ‘any other service or business whatsover’ is prohibited unless written approval is obtained from the employer – the States Employment Board.
Chief Minister John Le Fondré is chairman of the SEB, but it is not clear whether this permits him to sanction other paid roles, such as Mr Parker’s position with New River, without reference to the board as a whole.
A spokesman for New River yesterday said that the company had no comment to make on the matter.
A government spokesman indicated that the Chief Minister would be responding in a statement but, as of midday on Thursday [29 October], the JEP had not received any comment.
What is an Employee Benefit Trust?
An EBT is a type of trust used by companies to reward employees by giving them shares, bonuses, pensions and other awards.
They also have tax advantages and protect a company’s assets from those they owe money to should they enter insolvency proceedings.
Until recent action was taken by HMRC under its ‘disguised remuneration’ reforms, EBT’s were often used to avoid tax by providing interest-free loans to employees instead of a direct salary.